Carpal Tunnel Release: All You Need to Know

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition. It can cause pain, numbness, and tingling down the arm into the hand. The cause? One of the hand's major nerves (the median nerve) is squeezed or compressed through the wrist. 

If left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome usually gets worse over time. Early intervention, such as wearing a wrist splint and avoiding triggering activities, can help relieve symptoms. 

However, if the pressure on the median nerve continues, it may eventually cause nerve damage, and symptoms worsen. That is when you may require surgery to relieve pressure off the nerve. 

When Would a Doctor Recommend Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Non-surgical treatment methods are usually recommended first. These may include over-the-counter pain medications, physical therapy, splints, or steroid injections. 

Surgery may be recommended if: 

  • Non-surgical methods do not provide relief.
  • An electromyography test of the median nerve confirms that you have carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • The muscles of the hand or wrist have weakened due to the condition.
  • Symptoms have lasted six months or longer. 

What Happens During a Carpal Tunnel Release

Carpal tunnel release is often an outpatient procedure, so you will go home the same day as the surgery. There are two surgical options for carpal tunnel release: open release and endoscopic. 

Traditional Carpal Tunnel Release

With a traditional release, the surgeon cuts the wrist open. The surgeon makes about a two-inch incision on the wrist. Surgical instruments are then used to sever the carpal ligament to enlarge the carpal tunnel. 

Endoscopic Release

For an endoscopic release, the surgeon makes two small half-inch incisions. One of the incisions is on the wrist, the other on the palm. Then an endoscope is inserted into the wrist incision, which helps guide the surgeon to sever the ligament in the palm side. 

For both procedures, once the carpal ligament is released, the wounds are closed and covered with bandages or steri-strips. The hand and wrist are splinted to prevent mobilization. 

Post-operative Care Following Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Expect to spend about an hour in the recovery room after the surgery for monitoring. This allows for the anesthesia to wear off. 

Depending on your pain level, you may be given medication. Many patients do well with over-the-counter Tylenol after the surgery. 

After you recover, you will be discharged, but a friend or family member must drive you home. 

What Should I Know About Recovery and Healing?

If you have a dressing, make sure to follow provider instructions on how to change your dressing to reduce the risk of infection. You may need to wear a splint or brace for a month or more after surgery. It is also important to avoid excessive lifting or strenuous movement. 

Your surgeon will refer you to physical therapy, where you will learn exercises to improve strength and movement. Wrist extension and flexion exercises are key components to recovery. Expect to be in therapy at least a month and possibly longer for maintenance if needed. 

Make sure you keep all follow-up appointments with your provider and report any adverse symptoms you notice. You can expect a full recovery three to four weeks after your procedure. 

Concerned About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Connect with us at our Orthopedic Surgery Center Panther Creek

Our surgery center is a partnership between Raleigh Orthopaedic clinic, UNC Rex, and Panther Creek UNC health. Our mission is to be North Carolina's premier orthopedic destination by providing exceptional care that is personalized and cost-effective. 

You can trust our board-certified fellowship-trained surgeons to create an appropriate treatment plan to address your carpal tunnel syndrome condition. We strive to help you recover with minimal pain to regain maximum mobility. 

Get back to your daily life pain-free! For additional information, contact our surgery center at 919-582-3050. We look forward to being your partner in care. 

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

outpatient orthopedic surgery cary
6715 McCrimmon Parkway
Suite 205 A 
Cary, NC 27519
Monday – Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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